BY UNCLE BLURT
Call it, Exile on Mule Street. This seven-song mini-album—vinyl only, limited to 3000 copies, targeted for this year’s Record Store Day/Black Friday event—comes from a Philly show on Oct. 31, 2009, and it finds Gov’t Mule in fine Halloween form, covering the Rolling Stones. Haynes, Abts, Carlsson and Louis are joined by guests Jackie Green on guitar and harp and Steve Elson on sax and (more!) cowbell, and if your first reaction is to sniff and go, “Who needs another Rolling Stones tribute?” I totally understand. For my part, I definitely don’t need a Stones tribute; come to think of it, I don’t need most tribute albums. But this ain’t yer mama’s Stones trib.
For starters, Gov’t Mule has a long, storied tradition of serving up smokin’ covers, from Traffic to John Coltrane to the Dead to… take your pick. And here, they essentially inhabit these tunes, with possibly the exception of “Angie,” which was never much more than a weepily maudlin Mick Jagger vehicle in the first place. The other six tracks are motherfuckers, from a rousing, thumping and, yes, rolling “Under My Thumb” to a positively evil “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)” that thoroughly capture those tunes’ essences. And then there’s the bluesy, brawny, sleazy, extended foray into Exile’s “Ventilator Blues” with Greene’s harmonica prominent and Haynes unleashing some kinda stank on slide geetar; plus “Monkey Man,” which simply steamrolls forward, Haynes blurting the lyrics like a man possessed. (Worth additional note to hardcore fans who know the band’s capacity for pulling surprises out of thin air: drummer Abts takes the microphone for “Shattered.”)
Volume 1, eh? A covers/trib album this strong definitely deserves a curtain call and… waitaminnit, early December will see the release of Dark Side of the Mule, documenting the 2008 Halloween show in Boston when the band devoted nearly 90 minutes of a 3-hour concert to Pink Floyd covers. Let it bleed, you devils, and set the controls for the heart of the Mule.
DOWNLOAD: “Monkey Man,” “Paint it Black,” “Ventilator Blues”